Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Girl Named Disaster

A Girl Named Disaster. Nancy Farmer. 1996. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I read A Girl Named Disaster and Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind the same week. That fact definitely influenced my thoughts on both books--fair or not. Reading is subjective, after all.

Did I enjoy reading A Girl Named Disaster? Yes and no. I didn't exactly "enjoy" it. I found it a bit slow at the beginning, and, a bit rushed at the end. There were times I definitely found it interesting, but, I never really found myself loving it.

Nancy Farmer's A Girl Named Disaster is set in Mozambique and Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. Nhamo has an interesting relationship to the rest of the family. She dearly, dearly loves her grandmother (Ambuya), and is in return beloved of her grandmother. (She is in fact probably the favorite granddaughter.) But the rest of her family is a different story. They seem to blame Nhamo for the circumstances of her birth. Her mother returned home from school (high school??? college???) pregnant and married to a "useless" man, a man named Proud. Neither is in her life when the novel opens. Her mother died when Nhamo was a toddler--eaten by a leopard. Her father had disappeared even before that. Nhamo is, without a doubt, a hard worker. Yes, she is slightly bitter that her tasks are more difficult and time-consuming than her slightly-older cousin's--Masvita. But she isn't hate-filled and overflowing with attitude either.

Like Shabanu, A Girl Named Disaster introduces readers to a culture where marriage happens VERY early in life for girls--twelve to fourteen, and where a woman's worth is very much tied to her ability to produce children, particularly sons. Like Shabanu, A Girl Named Disaster features a heroine who is to be sacrificed via marriage. Like Shabanu, this marriage is MOST, MOST unwelcome. Dare I say this would-be marriage sounds even more unpleasant than the one in Shabanu--and I never thought I'd say that. Like Shabanu, the heroine makes the only choice she can under the circumstances....

Nhamo runs away from home in an attempt to make it across the border to Zimbabwe. Once there, she'll pretend to be Catholic--her mother attended a Catholic school--and seek refuge with nuns. Is she actually Catholic? No. Of course not. Her ideas of who Jesus is are far from sound, to say the least. But that is not exactly the point of A Girl Named Disaster.

Her journey to Zimbabwe is....much longer than she imagined it ever could be. It is not a journey of a few days or even a few weeks. MONTHS go by with Nhamo still struggling to reach her destination. It is her fight for SURVIVAL. It is definitely nature versus Nhamo...with Nhamo receiving a bit of help from the spiritual world.

Will Nhamo's life be better--easier--in Zimbabwe? Will she find her father? Will she find her father's family? Will she find welcome with them? What will happen to her if she doesn't find them? What will become of her? What are her chances of a decent life, a good life???

A Girl Named Disaster is slightly less depressing than Shabanu. That's not fair. It's not. The ending sees Nhamo with a bit of hope and a chance at a future.

Still neither book "feels" like a children's book. And when I do think of Newbery or Newbery Honor, I tend to think CHILDREN'S BOOK more than anything else. Arranged marriages, child-adult marriages, don't really come to mind. Still exposure to diverse titles can be a good thing. And both books offer readers something to think about.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Library Loot: Fifth Trip in August

New Loot:
  • Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
  • Winston the Book Wolf by Marni McGee
  • Ding Dong Gorilla by Michelle Robinson
  • Digger and Tom by Sebastien Braun
  • Toot and Pop by Sebastien Braun
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
  • Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Whittington by Alan Armstrong
  • Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins
  • Arthur, For The First Time by Patricia MacLachlan
  • Oh, the thinks you can think by Dr. Seuss
  • Wacky Wednesday by Theo LeSieg
  • Would You Rather be a Bullfrog by Theo LeSieg
  • Hooper Humperdink--? Not him! Theo LeSieg

Leftover Loot:
  • An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey
  • The Well by Stephanie Landsem
  • The Tomb by Stephanie Landsem
  • The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers  
  • There's A Wocket in My Pocket by Dr. Seuss
  • A Question of Honor by Charles Todd 
  • An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd
  • The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley
  • The Matchmaker: An Amish Retelling of Jane Austen's Emma by Sarah Price
  • Second Chances: An Amish Retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion by Sarah Price
  • Vango. Between Sky and Earth. Timothee de Fomb
  • Great Day for UP by Dr. Seuss
  • The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm translated by Jack Zipes  
  • Wouldn't it Be Deadly an Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mystery by D.E. Ireland
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
  • An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
  • Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  • The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher
  • Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Ella MacNeal 
       Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Week in Review: August 23-29

When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II. Molly Guptill Manning. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
Big Dog and Little Dog. Dav Pilkey. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
There's a Wocket in my Pocket! Dr. Seuss. 1974. Random House. 30 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Your Hand in My Hand. Mark Sperring. Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup. 2015. [November] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
When Sophie's Feelings are Really, Really Hurt. Molly Bang. 2015. [September] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The View From Saturday. E.L. Konigsburg. 1996. 176 pages. [Source: Bought]

Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind. Suzanne Fisher Staples. 1989. 240 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
Go Set A Watchman. Harper Lee. 2015.  HarperCollins. 278 pages. [Source: Library]
Finding Serendipity. Angelica Banks. 2015. Henry Holt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
The Original Jesus: Trading The Myths We Create For The Savior Who Is. Daniel Darling. 2015. Baker Books. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
John: That You Might Believe (Preaching the Word) R. Kent Hughes. 1999/2014. Crossway Books. 528 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Study Bible for Women: HCSB Large Print Edition. Dorothy Kelley Patterson and Rhonda Harrington Kelley. 2015. B&H. 2208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's recommendation(s)

I loved WHEN BOOKS WENT TO WAR and BIG DOG AND LITTLE DOG. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Big Dog and Little Dog

Big Dog and Little Dog. Dav Pilkey. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I definitely enjoyed reading Dav Pilkey's Big Dog and Little Dog. It is newly published in early reader format. (The book was originally published in 1997. The end-of-the-book activities are brand new additions to the 2015 edition.)

In this early reader title, young readers meet Big Dog and Little Dog. The good news is that if little ones LOVE reading about Big Dog and Little Dog, this is the first in a series. There are PLENTY of other books to get them excited--to keep them excited and to keep them READING.

Here is how this one begins, "Big dog and Little Dog are hungry. Big Dog and Little Dog want food."

My favorite part, I must admit: "Big Dog gets in the big bed. Little Dog gets in the little bed. Big Dog is lonely. Little Dog is lonely, too." The illustrations tell the rest of the story!

I love it because it is simple and straightforward. And being simple does not in any way prevent it from being clever and funny and A STORY. The illustrations are bright and bold.

It is a charming book cover to cover.

I also appreciated the end-of-the-book activities. For example, one activity has young readers practice story sequencing and has them retelling the story.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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What's On Your Nightstand (August)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.
Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke. 2015. Crossway Books. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'm loving this one. I am. It is SO GOOD. It might just be the best I've read in this Theologians on the Christian Life series. It has made me want to read MORE. I'm not sure if I'll go with a collection of his letters, or, if I'll go with a collection of sermons inspired by Handel's Messiah.

The Hired Girl. Laura Amy Schlitz. 2015. Candlewick. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I am REALLY enjoying this historical fiction novel. It's set around 1911-ish.

The Mistress of Tall Acre. Laura Frantz.  Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I haven't started this one yet, it just came this past week, but I look forward to new Frantz novels like I look forward to Christmas!!!

Heidi. Johanna Spyri. 1880/2009. Puffin Classics/Penguin.  320 pages. [Source: Bought]

I love, love, love Heidi. I was inspired to pick this up after watching a few episodes of the new Heidi series.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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